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by Seuzz
Rated: 18+ · Book · Other · #2156493
A hub for the "Book of Masks" universe.
The Interactives
"The Book of Masks: A high school student discovers a grimoire that can make magical disguises.
"The Wandering Stars: Sequel to "The Book of Masks."
"Student Bodies: A high school student is turned into a blue goo that can possess people.

For non-WdC Members
"The Book of Masks: Archives: Dodges the "Servers Busy" barrier!
"The Book of Masks (Abridged): Introductory storylines for new readers.

"BoM/TWS Message Forum: Community for readers of the interactives.
"BoM/TWS/SB Wiki: Notes and documentation for authors. Spoilers!

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August 30, 2020 at 8:43am
August 30, 2020 at 8:43am
"S02E06 "Screwball Live" is another near-exact adaptation of an IRL-episode, this one from Season One. I always knew it would appear at roughly this point on my version of the continuity, but it contributed in some small way to the development of the episodes around it.

The IRL-episode contained a classic MacGuffin—a data drive—that nothing was done with. Which is okay (MacGuffin's shouldn't be made much of) but as I thought about the Kingpin episodes I wanted to write, it occurred to me that this one could trigger more than one story. In "Screwball Live" it contained information about Hammerhead's operations. But what if, instead, it contained information about Kingpin's operations? That was the seed of the idea (mentioned in earlier commentaries) that the city's other gangsters might go to war for the remnants of Kingpin's criminal empire, which in turn led to "S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars" and "S02E05 "What Dreams May Come" and also to the upcoming "A Game of Cops and Robbers."

So that was a fertile idea, but it didn't require any serious changes to the IRL-story. Yes, the contents of the drive had to be changed, but that was decoration, not a plot point. More important changes: Harry Osborn had to be removed and his role assigned to another character. I also decided to take Robbie Robertson out of The Daily Bugle and give him his own media company—another potential complication for the "Superior Spider-Man" arc. And I decided to continue giving The Living Brain some cameos, and to turn up the heat a little between Peter and Gwen.
August 29, 2020 at 8:05am
August 29, 2020 at 8:05am
"S02E05 "What Dreams May Come" is the sequel to "S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars". I've already described how Part One was constructed after I had the idea for Parts Two and Three. This one—Part Two—had a rougher genesis.

My original idea—long ago—was to adapt Amazing Spider-Man #116-118, which is where Richard Raleigh originally appeared, but I had the hardest time coming up with an adapted plot that left him alive at the end, ready for more mayhem (perhaps) in the "Superior Spider-Man" arc. (One of my biggest peeves about the IRL-series was that it eliminated so many villains for Ock/Spider-Man to battle. I wasn't going to make the same mistake for my version.) In addition, he had last been seen as the new headmaster for AIM's Bilderburg Academy, a position that would have no really good connection with a race for the mayoralty. Finally, Raleigh had been introduced in "S01E04 "Ring Around the Spider-Man" as chasing a mystical object. What was that mystical object, and why had it led him to Bilderburg? Neither question could get an obvious answer in an adaptation of #116-#118.

Then, serendipity. I started watching online clips of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl.

And it came to me in a flash. Literally, in the space of about five seconds. Raleigh is building the mystical equivalent of a nuclear reactor, and it goes horribly wrong. He's at Bilderburg because his design requires a merger of the magical and the scientific, and that cuneiform tablet he stole in "Ring Around the Spider-Man" is the key to it. Magic implies the presence of Doctor Strange, so I did a little reading up on that character, and came up with the idea of the Nightmare Portal as the Chernobyl equivalent.

Then it was only (only! yeah, right) a matter of inventing the right pieces and putting them together so that they would connect backward to "S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars" and forward to an episode that would start a gang war.

And as I worked, other ideas began to click into place. At first Mysterio was going to be involved, but I that was too complicated. Instead, one of the most haunting images of Chernobyl—men looking into the open reactor core, and turning back around with scarred faces—gave me the image of someone looking into the open portal and having his face melt off, which gave me the origin for a character that the IRL-series introduces deeper in Season Two. I also came up with a place to park Spencer Smythe for later mischief.

In this way, "What Dreams May Come" became the pivot around which the first half of Season Two turned.
August 28, 2020 at 8:09am
August 28, 2020 at 8:09am
"S02E04 "Black Cats and Crossed Paths" is closely adapted from the Season One episode "A Day in the Life." I only made a few changes to it.

First, in the IRL-series's Season One, Peter has a kind of janitorial job at Horizon, and the theft occurred as he was cleaning up Max's office. So I had to alter the circumstances of the theft.

Next, I added a running gag/sub-plot about J. Jonah Jameson. It just seemed to me that the story needed a little more structure to it. It also made Peter's string of "bad luck" a little more stark, because Jameson is exactly the wrong person he should be colliding with when things go badly. But mostly I just thought it was a funny idea.

I also added Master Planner's appearance at the end.

And I changed the title. The IRL-episode had as its conceit that this was a "typical day" in the life of Peter Parker, with Black Cat's antics interrupting his classes and his time with friends. I got rid of that, and so the original title didn't fit it anymore.

I placed the episode here, immediately after "S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars" so that the events of that episode have time to rest before the sequel ensues.
August 27, 2020 at 8:18am
August 27, 2020 at 8:18am
"S02E03 "Spider-Man Behind Bars" has no counterpart in the IRL-continuity, but like other stories "original" to my continuity, it is based in large part on a comic book story. But that's not what I started out to write. This is a story that I backed into.

To fill out the 13-episode stretch that precedes the start of the "Superior Spider-Man" arc, I used IRL-episodes where I could, but there were three slots where I had to come up with something new. That was fine, for it would give me a chance to develop villains for later use.

I knew I wanted episodes centered on Kingpin and Richard Raleigh, for these were characters that had been introduced in Season One but not gotten much development. I had established that there was bad blood between them, though, and so my mind turned toward making a two-part episode that pitted them against each other.

I came up with Part Two first—the climax, showing their fight and the fall of the Kingpin. But before I could come up with Part One, I got the idea for a Part Three: the aftermath of the Kingpin's fall as rival gangs fought for control of his territory and resources. A good fight needs a concrete goal, however, so I settled on the idea that they would be fighting for control of Kingpin's armory, with all its valuable gear. (In Season One I had Kingpin showing a special avidity for supervillain gear.) That would also need to be set up.

So with Parts Two and Three in mind I worked backwards to Part One, which would set up elements of the two sequels. First, it would show Kingpin acquiring the greatest pile of supervillain loot imaginable, so that his rivals would have a strong motive to fight for the gear. Second, it would end with a crisis that would force Kingpin into fighting Richard Raleigh, where Kingpin would fall.

To fill the idea out I ransacked back issues of Amazing Spider-Man and found the idea of a prison break from #65. To instigate the plot, and to spin it around so it would link up with Part Two, I seized on the character of Leonard Owlsley, who would betray Kingpin to Raleigh. I also thought might then turn up again as a gangster in the "Superior Spider-Man" arc. The Beetle also makes an appearance, in order to set up a later cameo taken over from the IRL-series.
August 26, 2020 at 8:26am
August 26, 2020 at 8:26am
Those of you who know the IRL-series will recognize the events of "S02E02 "Between an Ock and a Hard Place" as pivotal to the second season. But although Otto Octavius's return and the manner of his exit are taken from two episodes—"Take Two" and "Between an Ock and a Hard Place"— most everything in between has changed. In the original series, Ock was a villain and a villain all the way thru. It was he who hired Silver Sable's gang to steal the Neuro-Cortex, and he also encouraged an Octopus lookalike in a crime spree to keep Spider-Man busy. In my continuity he is much less malevolent. He's not repentant for what he did in Season One (for he never thought he was doing wrong), but when he causes harm it is unintentional. It is his carelessness and arrogance, not malice, that bring him to grief.

All of this (as I've explained repeatedly) is intended to lead up to my version of the "Superior Spider-Man" arc, where Ock and Spider-Man swap bodies. This is where the story starts moving in that direction, so if you haven't been paying attention up to now, this is where you might start.
August 25, 2020 at 1:22pm
August 25, 2020 at 1:22pm
My Season Two opener, "S02E01 "How I Spent My Summer Vacation", is taken over almost entirely without change from the IRL-episode "How I Thwipped My Summer Vacation," which opened the IRL-series's second season. I made only a few changes. In the IRL-episode, it is Hammerhead and his son, not Silvermane and his grandson, who kidnap the pop star; Peter has already met Black Cat (a formal introduction won't come in my continuity for a few more episodes); and it is only in that episode that Peter starts taking photographs for the Daily Bugle.

All of my changes are motivated by changes to the first-season continuity, or else I would have lifted the IRL-episode wholesale and dropped it into my continuity. Though no great shakes, it is competent filler.

As for the change in the title: It turns out that "How I Thwipped My Summer Vacation" is too long for the WdC title box when the season/episode number is included. That's okay. It gave me an excuse to change a title that I didn't like anyway.
August 24, 2020 at 2:43pm
August 24, 2020 at 2:43pm
Today, as part of my silly Spider-Man project, I posted Part 3 of the three-episode Season One finale. Tomorrow, I'll be posting Episode 1 of Season Two. In the meantime I can brag that I've finally reached the end of Phase One.

My plan (to reiterate) is to compose my own version of the comic's "Superior Spider-Man" arc without seeing how the IRL-series did it. But because I was dissatisfied with the way the IRL-series set up characters and conflicts and histories, I decided to make my own continuity. So, starting from Season 1, Episode 1, I've been writing detailed treatments of my own version of the series. I started the project a year ago, and after long stops and short starts, I have now finished all that prep work. I now have treatments for twenty-five Season One episodes, and treatments for thirteen Season Two episodes. I have brought my series up to the point where the "Superior Spider-Man" arc can start.

And that's where I'm going to leave it for a bit. I'm pooped.

Episodes 1 through 13 will appear one day at a time over the next, um, thirteen days, but I'm going to go back to BoM while that's happening. I won't resume publishing until Masktrix finishes the 15-chapter arc I commissioned from him, but between now and then I'll be working on new things in the BoM universe. I've accepted a commission to write some chapters in "The Wandering Stars"; after that I'll probably do something for myself. And then we'll see.

Right now, though, I want to crawl into a hole and sleep. The last three days in particular have been grueling, as I've clambered toward the end. There is a novel's worth of words in this project, and right now I feel like every single one of them was a punch to my rib cage.
August 24, 2020 at 8:13am
August 24, 2020 at 8:13am
"S01E25 "The Day of the Jackal, Part 3" takes some inspiration from the IRL-series's "Spider-Island Part 5" by setting the climax in a spider-infested Oscorp Tower. In addition the help that (some of) The Sinister Six give in battling the Jackal comes from their appearance in "The Rise of Doc Ock, Part 4," where they are goons working for Osborn, but I changed the tenor and import of their use here. Norman's death scene also comes from that episode. Otherwise, it's mostly mine.

"The Day of the Jackal," and the first season of my alternate continuity as a whole, were intended to solve three problems that I had with the first season:

1. Harry kept yo-yoing between Peter and his dad in terms of loyalty. I wanted to create a sense of steady but encroaching tension and alienation before the final snap. Did I succeed? That's not for me to judge. I have my doubts, but I'm not going to go back and revise the first season to polish it up.

2. In the IRL-series, Norman gets a great death scene in Episode 18, but then comes back in Episode 19 (in disguise) as a mutant spider-monster; gets changed back to human in the course of the 5-part "Spider-Island" arc; is hospitalized; and briefly dons a disguise as the Hobgoblin to menace Spider-Man. It's just a mess. I thought it better to end the season with his implied death, and to use that death to motivate a break between Peter and Harry.

3. The Spider-Island arc is supposed to put paid to the Jackal and his plans, but that arc is followed by the barely related two-part Hobgoblin season finale. It seemed to me better to cut out the Hobgoblin stuff, which could be saved for Season Two or later, and to end the season with the climax of the season-long Jackal plot.
August 23, 2020 at 8:18am
August 23, 2020 at 8:18am
Here's an odd one.

Like Part 1, "S01E24 "The Day of the Jackal, Part 2" is based on a real-world episode: "The Rise of Doc Ock, Part 4." But whereas in my continuity Part 2 comes after Part 1 (dur!), in the real-world series, "Spider Island 1" comes after "Doc Ock 4."

In other words, my two back-to-back episodes are closely based on back-to-back episodes of the real-world series, but I've reversed the order!

It's like I said in Part 1's commentary: The meaning of a story depends not only on what happens within it, but on what happens outside and around it. Here's another illustration. Because of the changes I made to the overall series, I could cut the two original storylines into ribbons while keeping the elements mostly the same, then rearrange and reverse the order without destroying their coherence.
August 22, 2020 at 8:19am
August 22, 2020 at 8:19am
As noted at the end of the treatment, "S01E23 "The Day of the Jackal, Part 1" is adapted from a real-world episode, "Spider-Island, Part 1." One of the first things I did when I started outlining my "alternate series" was to delete the 5-episode "Spider Island" arc, which I found ridiculous and world-breaking. However, enough of that arc remained part of the Jackal's plan and motivation that when I came to outline the 3-episode story that would climax the first season, I decided to ransack the original for ideas and plot beats. The result is a storyline that retains the same shape and almost all the same action beats and plot evolutions of "Spider-Island, Part 1", but which means something quite different. It's a reminder that meaning in art and storytelling depends not only on intrinsic factors, but also on the context it appears in.
August 21, 2020 at 12:07pm
August 21, 2020 at 12:07pm
And as long as I am making multiple posts in one day:

I have to send up a big THANK YOU in rocket-red letters to the anonymous benefactor who gifted me another year's worth of upgraded membership at WdC. That is a gift far beyond my desert, and I am immensely grateful for it. Whoever you are, you are a prince/princess/prinxex among readers!
August 21, 2020 at 11:59am
August 21, 2020 at 11:59am
Masktrix has posted the first chapter in the story I told you about yesterday, and I've posted a copy in the public Archive.

Interactive: "Persecutions and Photographs
Public: "Persecutions and Photographs
Mastrix's comments: "A New Owner"  
August 21, 2020 at 11:49am
August 21, 2020 at 11:49am
As I warned yesterday, today starts a run of silly Spider-Man stories that have nothing to do with BoM.

"S01E22 "Let There Be Lightmaster" would be a filler episode in an animated continuity, and it's a filler episode here. I'm not comfortable saying that—surely every episode should be special, especially the stand-alone stories that don't have an extended arc to help support them—but it's true. "Let There Be Lightmaster" references the "Sinister Six" plot arc, and it exists in part to keep that plot arc relevant as the season reaches its conclusion, but it mostly exists as padding to separate the last multi-part plot arc from the one that comes next.

At least it's semi-original, being based on a comic book story and not an animated episode. Plot-wise, it somewhat tracks the comic that introduced the villain Lightmaster, so no prizes will be awarded for guessing the villain's real identity. It changes his motivations, though, to make them relevant to the animated continuity.

As for Tarantula, he gets a very different treatment in this story than he does the first couple of times he shows up in the comic books. Like "S01E07 "House of Sand" , it is intended to have a Batman: The Animated Series kind of a vibe. It's about a fallen hero who is damaged but redeemed, and is meant to be a more somber episode—something that probably doesn't come through in the outline itself. I'm not sure how well a candy-colored superhero show like Marvel's Spider-Man could capture the grayscaled tone of a BTAS episode, but this is a stab at it.

There would be an image to go with it, but since yesterday WdC has decided I have a virus on my machine (though my scanners indicate I'm clean) and I can't even email images. I'll wait a day or two to see if the problem goes away (sometimes the WdC machinery gets gummed up) and try again.
August 20, 2020 at 11:12am
August 20, 2020 at 11:12am
So today brings the eleventh chapter in a ten-chapter commission.

Interactive: "Maria's Crush
Public: "Maria's Crush

It was fun, even if I found that writing for Maria was a bit like digging clay out of the ground with my fingernails. Some characters write themselves; some respond well to be written; but for others you write and write and dig and dig, and when you're done you feel like you've written 10,000 words and have said 10 words worth of meaning.

But people seemed to like it. My thanks to ThePrussian55, Chelsea Woodward, Easy, Wordsmitty, Centre, Achillesredux, and HayateZero for Gift Points and some very nice words.

* * *

Okay, now what?

These last few branches have been commissions, and I'm all caught up with them. So now I'm off to work on a non-BoM project for a little while: my silly "Spider-Man" project: "Commissions and Projects.

I've been at work on it already for the past week or so, and I've got some new treatments that I will start publishing tomorrow. To see the project results thus far, check here: "Marvel Spider-Man: The Alternate Series.

I'll be posting one treatment a day, until I run out of completed treatments. I'll also be publishing short commentaries for each one, here on the blog. This project has been more successful as a learning exercise than anything else, and I might as well share some of the things I've learned.

* * *

But BoM readers won't be completely abandoned in the meantime. Tomorrow, Masktrix will start publishing a new 15-chapter storyline. And this one is pretty radical.

For a start, it's a branch that I commissioned, which is a switch. It's an idea I've wanted to see done for a long time, but never bothered to work out myself. So I asked Mastrix to work on it for me.

It takes off of these chapters, which are buried deep in an obscure corner of "The Book of Masks": "A Prank Present; "Of Pranks and Punks; "Punks and Persecutions. Will has been working for Blackwell, but after his mentor gets eaten by a supernatural creature, Will searches the house and finds a peculiar book full of occult-themed stories. As he reads deeper into the book, he comes across an interactive story about a student at Westside High School who finds a grimoire that teaches how to make magical disguises. The story seems familiar, but Will can't quite put his finger on why this interactive story gives him such a strong sense of deja vu ...

The idea (obviously, I hope) is to use these chapters as a way of telling BoM all over again but with a different protagonist. It would be the same universe, with the same characters, in the same setting, with the same rules. But it would be someone else, not Will Prescott, having the adventure. I wrote three chapters with three different protagonists but never developed any of them.

So I've commissioned Mastrix to play with the idea. Tomorrow he will introduce a fourth character who finds the Libra, and launches it into a fifteen-chapter storyline. It's entirely his creation, by the way. Though I commissioned it, I only asked for two things: that it run for 15 chapters, and that Will Prescott at least put in an appearance. Otherwise, every creative choice has been Masktrix's.

He's been showing me the chapters ahead of time (he's up to Chapter 10 as I post this), and I think it's really good. I think you guys will enjoy it too.

EDIT: I will be publishing Masktrix's chapters in the Archives as well. The chapters leading up to where his storyline will appear begin with "The Path Through the Protective Maze.
August 19, 2020 at 10:22am
August 19, 2020 at 10:22am
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "At Home as Maria Vasquez
Public: "At Home as Maria Vasquez

—was supposed to be the last in a ten-chapter commission. But after I wrote it, I decided I didn't want to leave it resting on those last two lines, so I wrote an eleventh chapter, which will appear tomorrow.

Speaking of those last two lines, I sure hope they don't contradict anything that's been written elsewhere. I certainly didn't have them in mind when I plunged into this commission. In fact, they literally only occurred to me just before I wrote them. It seemed like they'd create a good kind of tension, for if and when I pick this branch up again.
August 9, 2020 at 11:34am
August 9, 2020 at 11:34am
Today starts a new commission, and you actually get two chapters:

Interactive: "The Stage, Your World? + "Masks and Rough Play
Public: "The Stage, Your World? + "Masks and Rough Play

Well, one and half. The first is just an extension of the previous chapter, to set up more choices, and it's shorter than usual, so I'm putting it up today as an extra.

Meanwhile, the second chapter advances the plot, but it doesn't count as part of the commission. The actual ten-chapter run will commence tomorrow.
August 8, 2020 at 9:07am
August 8, 2020 at 9:07am
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "A Sunday Lunch with Scrambled Seating
Public: "A Sunday Lunch with Scrambled Seating

—is the last in the commission. I didn't actually take the subterranean plot as far as I intended, but between Cooper family shenanigans and setting up Jordan's life, there wasn't room for everything. Oh well.

Tomorrow I start a new commission. Ten chapters, so it will run awhile. There's not much backstory to give. It will be a continuation of "The Leftovers, which is a very early chapter. Will, working solo, has made a mask, and he has gone up to the school to find someone to test it out on.
August 8, 2020 at 9:06am
August 8, 2020 at 9:06am
Today's chapter—

Interactive: "A Sunday Lunch with Scrambled Seating
Public: "A Sunday Lunch with Scrambled Seating

—is the last in the commission. I didn't actually take the subterranean plot as far as I intended, but between Cooper family shenanigans and setting up Jordan's life, there wasn't room for everything. Oh well.

Tomorrow I start a new commission. Ten chapters, so it will run awhile. There's not much backstory to give. It will be a continuation of "The Leftovers, which is a very early chapter. Will, working solo, has made a mask, and he has gone up to the school to find someone to test it out on.
August 7, 2020 at 5:17pm
August 7, 2020 at 5:17pm
Because of some continuity errors, Masktrix has asked me to revise one of his recent chapters and delete another. If you're following his new branch—and based on the views it's getting, you all are—the revised sequel to "Masks Need Moms is now "Calling an Audible. The first half is mostly the same, but the last third has gotten a serious plot revision. The sequel that was originally up has, consequently had to be deleted.

Also, "Masks Need Moms has had a fourth choice added to it.
August 6, 2020 at 9:04am
August 6, 2020 at 9:04am
Many years ago—never mind how many—when I was fourteen, I read a science-fiction story while killing time in the school library. I was a library aide that year, and I had lots of time to kill. Come to that, I read lots of science-fiction when I was fourteen. But this particular story was one of the few I read—not excepting those in the anthologies I owned—that stuck with me.

It was short and punchy, for one thing, and written with a vivacity that put its one, very horrible idea across with great simplicity and clarity. There was a pencil illustration of graphic bluntness to go with it, and that too probably made it memorable. Also, the story spun its one, very horrible idea out of a common bit of futurism that shows up in many science-fiction stories and movies, so that every time I read a story or saw a movie that employed that bit of futurism, it reminded me of that short story and of its very horrible twist.

But the name of the author, and the story? I had no notion or memory.

That is, until a few days ago, when I downloaded and started to read a cheap Kindle book: 101 Science Fiction Short Stories. You can probably now guess where this is anecdote is going.

Within the first three paragraphs of the twelfth story in the collection, I suspected what I had found. Halfway into it, I knew beyond a doubt. Confirmation at the end was anti-climax.

"Road Stop," by David Mason, is a minor work by a minor author, but it is one of the best and most effortless blendings of idea and technique—a simple idea, vividly told—that I have read. I would give it a mild recommendation to general readers. To professionals or amateur writers with ambitions, though, I would commend it for study.

And if I tell you that the story's necessary plot element concerns a self-driving car that comes out of the past and leaves the observing characters with a chill as it slides obliviously by, then you might understand why I was doubly struck by its reappearance in my reading. My experience with the story itself almost exactly recapitulates the experience of its characters.

If you want to read the story itself, here it is in its original context: Worlds of If (January 1963)  . No illustration here, sad to say. That was an addition made to the reprinted version I found in the school library.

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